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June 23, 2017

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Immune boosters show promise in fighting cancer: US research

CHICAGO--A pair of experimental treatments that fight cancer by boosting the immune system have shown promise in early studies and deserve testing in larger patient groups, said U.S. research released Saturday.

The drugs, both made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, work by breaking down the shield that protects tumor cells. Rather than try to kill the cancer directly, they allow the immune system to do its work against the invading cells.

In the trials which included just over 500 people, as many as one in four patients with non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma and kidney cancer, who had not responded to standard therapies, saw significant shrinkage of their tumors.

Results of the phase-1 clinical trials were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and released at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago.

The drugs are known as BMS-936558, which blocks a protein PD-1 on the surface of immune cells; and BMS-936559, which blocks a protein PD-L1 expressed on cancer cells.

They are in the same class of treatments as other antibody therapies against cancer including Erbitux, Herceptin, and Rituxan.

"We have just scratched the surface of laboratory and clinical research on these drugs," said lead author of the PD-1 study, Suzanne Topalian, professor of surgery and oncology at Johns Hopkins University.

"Based on the positive response rates to these drugs and longevity of many of these responses, we believe that new clinical trials should move forward."

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